“Civil rights of neighbouring property owners”

A stoush between Housing Minister Nick Smith and Auckland councillor Mike Lee illustrates problems with both the housing problems in Auckland and the hijacking of the RMA by NIMBYs.

Patrick Gower: Govt, Auckland Council at odds over housing

Housing Minister Nick Smith has attacked an Auckland Councillor, calling him a “Nimby” for blocking a housing development.

A corner in Herne Bay is a small battlefield in the war between the Government and Auckland Council over how to speed up housing supply. The Government wants 70 apartments built there, but Auckland Councillor Mike Lee is trying to stop it, and that’s got Dr Smith angry.

The Government has designated the site of the old Gables pub a “special housing area”. That allows for fast-tracked development, with between four to seven of the apartments “affordable housing”. It’s about getting more housing into inner-Auckland’s “urban intensification”.

But neighbours don’t like it, and, local councillor Mr Lee is on their side. Mr Lee wrote earlier this year, saying the development was “overriding the civil rights of neighbouring property owners”.

Lee seems to be ignoring the rights of property owners to develop their properties. If councillors oppose new housing developments because neighbours don’t like them then it’s no wonder Auckland has a major housing problem.

Dr Smith responded, saying he found Mr Lee’s position “ironic”, “odd” and “part of the problem”.

“We cannot have that sort of Nimbyism. That’s at the core of where Auckland has gone wrong. That’s why I’ve politely written back to Mr Lee and said ‘actually, you are being a hypocrite’.”

The problem of using one’s ‘rights’ to oppose what other people do with their own property is a not confined to Auckland.

In Dunedin it has not been uncommon for ‘neighbours’ – people living kilometres away – to use the RMA to oppose applications to build on properties because they don’t want the landscape to be ‘degraded’.

They have been successful in stopping the civil rights of owners to do what they want to with their properties.

And it’s about to get worse if proposed changes to the new district plan go through (objections are currently being heard).

Someone in the council has drawn lines on maps of the city on the 100 m contour line in many areas, and they are saying that if you want to build a house above this altitude you are  restricted in what you can build (size and appearance) and need to apply through the RMA to be able to build.

This is supposedly to retain the ‘character’ of the city  – so people won’t have to look at houses on hills. Despite the fact that a lot of Dunedin suburbs are already built up hills.

So in other words NIMBYs who already have houses on their properties don’t want other people to be able to build what they want on their own properties.

It’s no wonder Dunedin is stagnating – except for on the Taieri where ex councillors have been able to subdivide some of the best farmland in the area.

It’s no wonder Auckland has a housing crisis if people, especially councillors, are opposing the building of new residential properties.

And it’s no wonder the Government is getting frustrated with Auckland and with the RMA.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  17th May 2016

    Civil rights are totally irrelevant. The issue is property rights of both parties – developer and neighbours. The state should define these properly and then allow them to be traded between willing parties.

    • Corky

       /  17th May 2016

      The RMA allows Maori ( and others) undue influence over private property rights. We forget private property rights are what separates a civil society from barbarians. Barbarians only understand life from a collective mentality. And that’s the problem. Our society as a whole, especially with immigration, is slipping back into a collectivist mentality.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  17th May 2016

        I disagree about immigration. The Chinese are family orientated, not collectivist.

      • Blazer

         /  18th May 2016

        ‘ We forget private property rights are what separates a civil society from barbarians. Barbarians only understand life from a collective mentality’…..what do you classify colonialism and empire as….charity,altruism?

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  17th May 2016

    I read a horror story some years ago about a couple who bought a section in Auckland, only to discover that the neighbour had the right to veto any building there. It wasn’t ruining his view as I remember, and I can’t remember how it came about, only that the mean-minded bugger waited until they’d bought it and then wouldn’t let them build on it.

    I can fully understand people not wanting state housing in their area-when the word went out that it was going to be done in my street, everyone was furious. As one’s house is one’s major investment, there are times when one has to be a nimby. Most of us don’t want a house whose value has gone down through no fault of our own or that is all but unsaleable. The information that a lot of state houses were being built was false, thank goodness.

    • jamie

       /  17th May 2016

      If such a “right of veto” really applied to their property then it must have at some point been literally applied to their property in a legal sense, by which I mean that it would appear as a covenant or other claim of legal interest on the title documents for the property.

      If so, then their solicitor should have explained this to them. If s/he didn’t, they may be able to take action against their solicitor.

    • Jeeves

       /  18th May 2016

      So Kitty- are you admitting that you don’t believe in the rights of property owners to do what they want?
      ie- the state bought the land, but you didn’t think it should use it as it wanted to?

  3. duperez

     /  17th May 2016

    So four to seven of the 70 apartments are to be “affordable housing”? Surely anyone won’t buy any apartment there if it’s not affordable. If “affordable” means limited to a certain amount of money what is that to mean? Are the affordable ones to be one bedroom 47sq.m one bedroom apartments without views on the side getting no sun for a mere $698, 000?

  4. Jeeves

     /  18th May 2016

    THe biggest problem with nimbyism is that none of them seem to understand the actual extent of their own back yard, and that no-one can do anything in it.

    • Gezza

       /  18th May 2016

      Imagine how bad it was in Rome a few centuries ago though. Local hovel owner: Coliseum? Haven’t we got enough bloody stadiums already? Come on guys. Sign my petition. Who wants that monstrosity blocking our view? >:D


Leave a Reply to Alan Wilkinson Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: